Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is often referred to as “winter depression” because it is most commonly associated with the winter months. SAD typically begins in the autumn, when the days start to get shorter and the nights start to get longer, and continues through the winter. The cause of SAD is not fully understood, but it is thought to be related to the shorter days and longer nights of winter, which can disrupt the body’s internal clock and lead to changes in brain chemistry. However, it’s important to note that SAD can also occur during the summer, although this is less common.
Some early warning signs of seasonal affective disorder may include:
- Changes in mood: People with SAD may experience feelings of sadness, hopelessness or irritability that is out of character for them.
- Changes in energy levels: People with SAD may feel very tired or have low energy, even when they get enough sleep.
- Changes in appetite: People with SAD may experience changes in appetite, such as increased cravings for carbohydrates or sweets.
- Changes in sleep patterns: People with SAD may have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep or they may sleep more than usual.
- Changes in concentration: People with SAD may have difficulty concentrating or completing tasks.
- Social withdrawal: People with SAD may start to withdraw from social activities or stop enjoying activities that they normally find enjoyable. It’s important to note that these symptoms can also be caused by other factors, such as stress, changes in work or personal life, or medical conditions.
There are several ways that people can cope with seasonal affective disorder:
- Light therapy: Light therapy involves sitting in front of a light box that simulates natural outdoor light for a set amount of time each day. This can help to regulate the body’s internal clock and improve symptoms of SAD.
- Antidepressant medication: Antidepressant medication can be effective in managing SAD by balancing the levels of certain chemicals in the brain that are thought to be involved in mood regulation.
- Psychotherapy: Talking therapy, including CBT, can help people with SAD to identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviours that contribute to their symptoms.
- Exercise: Regular physical activity can help to improve mood and reduce feelings of anxiety and depression.
- Improve sleep habits: Getting enough sleep and establishing a consistent sleep schedule can help to improve symptoms of SAD.
- Spend time outdoors: Getting exposure to natural light, especially during the winter months when it is limited, can help to improve symptoms of SAD.
It’s important to note that different approaches may work for different people, and it may be necessary to try a combination of different techniques to find what works best for you.
It’s also important to remember that it is normal to have ups and downs, and feeling down during the winter months does not necessarily mean that you have SAD.
If you are experiencing symptoms of SAD or if you are struggling to cope with the winter months, Counselling, also known as talking therapy or psychotherapy, can be a very helpful treatment for seasonal affective disorder. It can provide a safe and supportive space for individuals with SAD to discuss their feelings, thoughts and experiences, and to learn new skills and strategies for managing their symptoms and improving their overall well-being.
Counselling can be in person or online, depending on the person’s preference and access to resources.
Online counselling through the use of video conferencing is a convenient way for people to receive counselling services remotely and is an effective option for people with Seasonal Affective Disorder who have difficulty accessing in-person counselling services, or who prefer the flexibility and convenience of receiving treatment from the comfort of their own home or whilst travelling for work.